Current Conditions - Eastern Sierra area

sources of info - entirely my work - snitched from various sources and personal observation - ie. Inyo Co. Sheriff road conditions, Inyo NF, Sequoia NF, Mammoth Times, Lone Pine Chamber, Sierra Wave, etc. etc.

it is YOUR responsibility to check on road conditions if something on this list looks suspects - I don’t update it every day- this is a moving target!!

Rockfall, thunderstorms, melting snow, etc. cause changes…. this is the best I have as of the dates below….

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updated 10/14/17

new Death Valley updates below

Fall Colors!! At their peak NOW

Jus head uphill to any Aspen grove!  And hurry cuz it’s been cold enough up high to freeze the leaves, and windy enough to blow them off the trees!  Suggestions:
            Whitney Portal area around the pond and waterfall
            Kern Plateau - Granite Knob Meadow,  small meadow toward Sherman Pass
            Bishop Creek - to South Lake and maybe North Lake
            Rock Creek - great all the way to the lake
            Convict Lake - yellow all around the lake
            June Lake Loop - amazing
            Lee Vining Creek
            Lundy Canyon and beyond the lake
            Conway Summit

Update from Whitney Portal - snow happened!!


From Doug Thompson at the Whitney Portal Store -9/9/17  Quick update ,rain most of last week. Most storms 7-10 PM , Last Thursday (Aug 31) night 3-4 inches in the Portal , Yesterday light rain 7 PM snow on the ridge today and above Trailcamp should clear after a few hours of sun .This time of the year above 11000' it will rain less often but will be sleet/hail or,snow .
Staying at Trailcamp not a great option it will be colder and more chance for high wind and drifts if a major storm moves in.

I see many people starting the trail with very light gear, shorts and runner type shoes , we may be past that option as winter is here or will be in the next few weeks.Temperatures will be in the 20's low 30's early morning and expect black ice in the wet areas. So starting at 1-2 AM puts you in the coldest areas in the dark.

Store is open (but the Grill is closed
L )and plan is to stay till the snow sets in sometime late Oct. Hint watch the webcam at for snow coverage or cloud cover. Forgot about the wind , with each system we will have wind before and after so wet, cold and high wind major factor , above reference to light clothing/shorts/ runners unless you plan to turn around at first hint of weather. Last pancake of the year kitchen closed .

Kern Plateau roads, OHV trails, etc. non-fire areas now open.

open - Sherman Pass road over the top, Blackrock Road to the trailhead for Golden Trout Wilderness trails,  Monache JEEP road, Troy and Fish Creek campgrounds, OHV trails  all OK- but - it’s freezing at night now!!

Fall colors at their peak!! Willows red.

Fires - big fire in Wilderness, 13,000 acres, but burning low and slow - they’re allowing it to burn, but it’s sure making smoke!!  Headed toward Lion Meadow.  See maps

Woodcutting!!  Sequoia Naitonal Forest is allowing FREE 10 cord firewood permits!! Gotta get the permit at a Ranger Station and have your chain saw checked, but the wood is free!! - it’ll help clean up the forest floor.  Have at it!!

Kennedy Meadows area is open for business – General Store and Grumpy's open, residents and visitors welcome!! Store hours roughly 9-5 daily, a bit longer on weekends.    Check Gummpy’s for hours, but food available on weekends for sure.

Kennedy Meadows Campground is open, but there are no OHV trails from there. Good hiking. PCT Hikers welcome.   The meadows are yellow now - pretty!! 

Be sure you have a campfire permit for a fire or your stove and lantern - and a Wilderness Permit if you’re hiking into the Golden Trout Wilderness - Casa Vieja, Jordan HS, etc.

Campgrounds - “improved = toilets, fees, tables, water in season” Troy Meadows, Fish Creek, Kennedy Meadows.

Primitive= no toilets, no fees;  Fish Creek overflow, Beach Meadow, Osa Meadow, Paloma Meadow, Monache Meadow, Powell Meadow, Granite Knob Meadow, Blackrock trailhead.   (Troy overflow not open)

Roads: - paved roads all open.

dirt roads - in pretty good shape around the fire area!!  Beach road is OK!

Monache Meadow is truly a JEEP road - ie. clearance, 4x4. You’ll need it! It is not currently suitable for Subaru’s, for example. Real Jeep types!! The Kern River Crossing is deep, soft, flowing fast, and not for the timid. Washouts on a lot of the roads in the Monache area. Roads to Bonita and Beach Meadows in good shape shape.

Flowers: -.   Fall colors starting. Rabbit brush blooming!

Deer Hunting - still open, Monache is good place to start.

BUGS - YUP!!  Mosquitoes, mostly gone. Green tree frogs hopping everywhere in Granite Knob. And Paloma, probably in all of um!  Where have these guys been during the drought?!

Snowhappens now with each passing storm!  Stream crossings down to “normal”,  Now it’s snowing with storms above 9000 ft. again.  The high passes STILL have snow from last winter. 

Sherman Pass is 90 miles from Ridgecrest no matter which way you go down the hill - and it’s the same elevation drop whether you go to Kernville or Ridgecrest - so it’s a GREAT loop!!


Whitney, Horseshoe Meadows, Onion Valley areas

Inyo site has some great trail maps/guides on this website.  Check them out!!

All open and mostly snow-free below 11,500,  but still snow patches above 11,500.

Campgrounds being closed as fall happens - check the web site list, need reservations for Whitney area.

Need Wilderness Permits for hikes in Whitney Area into Nov.  - get at Lone Pine Visitor Center

Need Wilderness permits for overnight hikes out of Horseshoe or Onion Valley.  Kearsarge pass has a lot of PCT hiker traffic.


Bishop Creek Area, Rock Creek, McGee Creek

ALL campgrounds being closed - !!  See

All paved roads open.  North Lake road open.  Road to Mosquito Flat open.

Lakes ice-free finally, but still snow patches on north-facing slopes and passes.

Best places for aspens and fall colors - any of the canyons!!


Mammoth Lakes Basin

Roads and campgrounds starting to close. Bike trail good to Horseshoe Lake.  Horseshoe is FULL of water for first time in years!!!  Trails- still snow patches above 11,500’

Coldwater Creek CG Open   Mammoth Mine area closed due to arsenic issues

Gondola operating (winds permitting) for scenic rides to top of mountain

**Reds Meadow Road OPEN!! Shutle buses stopped, cars allowed if construction permits. I think bicycles still allowed?  Reds meadow pack station and café open.  Rainbow Falls awesome!!!!  Minaret falls pretty.  Devil’s Postpile OPEN, but not the campground.   Going to be construction on the road to widen it a bit. 

Agnew Meadow CG not open either.  If hiking to lakes, park at Minaret Summit or take shuttle down.

Tioga Road

OPEN!!   But closes with each passing storm. Facilities and campgrounds limited. 

Tuolumne Meadows Store and Post Office now closed.

Tuolumne Campground CLOSED,  Others west on Tioga road being closed.  

NONE of the High Sierra Camps will open this summer!!  L   (except Tuolumne Mdws)

Best to call the park.  Their web pages not updated at all for this wild winter!!


Saddlebag Lake   Fishing possible.  Saddlebag Lake Resort

It is with a heavy heart that we say - we will not be opening the General Store and Cafe at Saddlebag Lake this year.  There is too much snow damage and we are working to see how quickly we can repair the damage.  Until further notice, the Water Taxi and Boat Rentals will not be operating as well.  We are sorry for not being able to take care of our friends and SBL family this season!  We will keep you updated. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers. 


Saddlebag Lake Resort is still looking for the right people, family, or organization to purchase this great business.  If you are interested in more information about this great opportunity.


Saddlebag campground is open, but no water taxi.
catch a brookie, brown, rainbow, and golden - maybe even all in same day!

Tioga Pass Resort - CLOSED - severe snow damage to the main building and some of the cabins.  Will require $$ and major work.  No pie  L


Public Transportation in and around Yosemite NP

See   Closed down

Within Yosemite National Park - FREE shuttles

2 major loops around the Valley still running, 7:30 - 10 pm  Year round. 


Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Road open to the Schulman Grove and dirt road to the Patriarch Grove. Visitor Center closed **watch the sky - if clouds with gray bottoms, do NOT go hiking and do NOT go up to the Patriarch Grove.  This is prime territory for hail storms and lightning!!  This seems to be a particularly wet/monsoon summer!  Watch for snow as storms pass.


Death Valley National Park

***LOWER WILDROSE OPEN!!!!   Finally!  Access to Telescope Pk trail.  

Death Valley Road Conditions

2 hrs Š 

Park staff is working hard to repair damage and assess road conditions from our recent monsoons. 

Road Updates for Wednesday, Oct. 12  at 9:00 am:

Big Pine/Death Valley Road is OPEN
Devil's Golf Course Road is OPEN. 

Mesquite Campground: CLOSED

CA-190: Open
Badwater Road: Open
Emigrant/Wildrose: Open
Scotty's Castle Road/North Highway: Closed from 190
Scotty's Castle Road: Closed to the Castle (Bonnie Claire) and NV-95

Big Pine/Death Valley road: OPEN
West Side Road: CLOSED
Harry Wade Road: OPEN, 4X4 REQUIRED - DEEP SAND!
Titus Canyon Road: OPEN

Mustard Canyon, Salt creek Rd. OPEN

Updated road conditions can be found on our website:

Be careful when in the backcountry in this heat!!  You will be alone - plan on it.

***Really watch the sky!  Remember that water runs downhill - so if it’s raining uphill from YOU - watch out - water will soon be there!!!!!




Report on Death Valley in general


MAJOR construction going on at both the Ranch (The Ranch at Death Valley) and the Inn (The Inn at Death Valley). The Inn usually opens Oct. 15, but looks like they’re not booking rooms till Christmas.  Construction equipment in the parking lot and everywhere else.  They plan to make some little cabins on the tennis courts and west of the pool - but right now that’s sewer pipe and palm trees in planters… The Inn Dining room says they’re still open as usual, which means Sunday Brunch as usual but probably not till Christmas.  Word is that they’ve revamped all the rooms - which needed it - HVAC, etc.  Golf course is not impacted and is open, as is the 19th hole.

No rooms available in Oct or Nov - calendar starts just before Christmas.  $399-449 depending on location _ tax and resort fees, not including meals. 


There is a fence up across the entire front of the Ranch.  Entrance from dirt road leading to Golf Course, Date Grove.  They’re redoing the entire entrance area - store, Corkscrew Café, bar, Wrangler - all will be different. Now dining is in a small building in the middle of the date grove; see the web page for menu.  Rooms $179 to 330 + tax and resort fees (but ask about the cabins). Several discounts.  The cabin area, pool, golf course, 19th hole all open and not affected by construction - only eating is, and the General Store, now at the 19th hole. 


Xanterra also runs a small RV park just south of the Gas Station.  Fiddler’s CG - $18/night, gives access to the Ranch pool and grounds.  Next to golf course.  No tables or grills, no pull-through, kinda “open”, as in no assigned spaces like the other RV parks. 


See  for what they promise will be updated info.

And    for the Ranch - looks like they have temporary dining in the Date Grove??  No hamburgers…


Campgrounds - open officially Oct. 15 - Furnace Creek will require reservations, Stovepipe no - BUT they don’t have maintenance workers on payroll yet, so other than those two, campground opening is put off till the first of November (for 49er Days).  Mesquite CG is still closed due to flooded issues with roads, et al.  No ETA on that one. 


Wildrose Road is open, BUT - not repaired beyond making it mostly 2 lane.  The unpaved spots are still unpaved.  The potholes are still there, especially near Wildrose Station area, both above and below. The springs are still across the road, with deep holes.  They’ll be making ice at night now.  Near the Panamint Daisy area the road is one-lane with rough 2nd lane.  Fortunately there’s still not much traffic on the road.  DO NOT DO THIS ROAD AT NIGHT!!  Your headlights won’t catch the potholes and rough spots and ice.


Emigrant Rest Stop bathroom has a “warning, bees” sign.  I didn’t investigate, but it is a lovely place to have a bee hive - so might want to not plan to stop there right now.  The Ranger Station across the street has a display now about the Station and Stan Jones, who wrote “Ghost Riders in the Sky” while sitting on that porch during a storm. 


Other than all this - the Valley is BEAUTIFUL now!  Light is perfect, temps OK (though it was 100° on the 8th), great time to go!!   Not crowded at all until 49er Days, Nov. 5-12 - art, fiddling, entertainment, golf & hourseshoe tournaments, rocks, 4x4 tours, horse parades, etc. etc.  Always fun, always crowded!


Scotty’s Castle Report


10.8.17            Report on Scotty’s Castle Rehab, et al


The flood was Oct. 18, 2015.  October - !!!!  multiple articles - Google “Scotty’s Castle Closed”

Guesses at the time said it’d be open by 2019.  Nope - latest guess is 2020!!  Here’s why-


It rained only 2.5” at the castle in a short period of time, but upstream more like 4-5” in an hour.  Grapevine Canyon is narrow.  All that water came rushing down @ 3500 cfs through the Castle grounds and down past Mesquite campground and into the valley.  Campers were moved to Ubehebe Crater parking lot just in time.  Trash bins and picnic tables rolled by on 20 ft. waves.


The roads to and from the Castle had just been repaired in the spring of 2015, new fence posts, etc.  New water system above the castle, new phone lines, etc.  All ripped out!! Oops….


Sooooo - the clean-up began.  The NPS has a $10 million “emergency fund” and all of it went to DVNP - paid for emergency utilities (see below), grading one lane of road from Grapevine out to NV 95, and most importantly, having over 200 personnel from other Parks and lots of fire fighters come with shovels and wheelbarrows to dig out the buildings - all that work was done by hand!!  Then started plans for how to rehab.  The “Castle”, (DV Ranch,) was not impacted by the flood, but all the other buildings and the pool were.  And the utilities everywhere were gone.


Without any HVAC or humidity control to anything, all historic artifacts needed to be immediately moved somewhere - turns out to a climate-controlled warehouse in LA!! 


Southern Cal Edison came in and replaced the poles and lines where they used to be (in the wash- no thoughts of undergrounding) BUT - when they got to the distribution box - it was full of rocks and mud.  Then when electricians looked at all the buildings - the wiring is 100 years old and obviously not up to code.  Laws require that everything be brought up to code. 


A temporary water line was run from the spring in the canyon down to the grounds and hooked into the system.  Leaks popped up everywhere!!  100 yr old clay pipes were in very nasty soil full of  boron, alkali salts, etc. and of course were crumbling.  Gotta replace ALL the water lines.


The HVAC system never did work well.  Gotta replace all the duct work and the units.


Drywall all got wet - gotta pull all that and start over - after wiring and pipes get fixed.


The Welty Organ and player piano were deemed to difficult to move - so they have put a climate controlled “box” around both and hooked that to power.  (The Pelton Wheels still work, but the pipes don't).


Roads - the Fed. Highway budget will fix both the 3 miles up from Grapevine and 8 miles from the Castle out to NV 95 - BUT - that’s government funding and s..l..o..w - plans needed to be drawn to try to get most of the road out of the wash.  Now looks like repairs will happen 2018-2019.  It’s not a simple project. 


Sooo - best estimates now are to open in 2020….   

Trails, John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, passes, etc.

Also a moving target… check with Lone Pine Visitor Center for Whitney area, Bishop/Inyo Natl Forest office and Inyo NF website for Bishop area, Mammoth Ranger Station, Mono Lake Visitor Center - both MLC and USFS offices for conditions.  They change daily!!

Trails are NOT closed - BUT - there’s still a lot of snow above 11.000 on north-facing slopes and passes,  and rivers are still high.  Suncups are an issue now - a real pain!!  All high passes have snow on north sides, though south-facing sides have patches of suncups Ice axe, crampons, and skills to use them a must still, and probably into Sept. 

Trails above June Lake Power Plant - ie to Gem Lake,  Agnew Lake, etc. are OPEN!!

Amazing website, but not updated for 2017.  Lots of cool history, tips, etc.


USE COMMON SENSE.  If it looks dangerous, it IS.  There’s no shame in turning back and going to a safer place, or just going out and coming back later.  The mountains will be waiting for you, maybe with not so much water and snow - though they sure needed it!! 

From Yosemite NP Web page -

On July 1, 2017 about an hour before sunset, a wilderness law enforcement ranger on a routine backcountry patrol encountered three separate parties, seven hikers total, all completely lost while facing darkness. They were in the Sunrise Pass area south of Tioga Road, Tuolumne Meadows general area.

Although the Tioga Road opened just two days before, many high country trails remain snow covered, including trail signs. All three parties discovered how challenging route finding is on snow buried trails and lost their way going to Clouds Rest and back; this trail is misperceived as an easier route and some of the hikers had done this trail before. While lost, one party found another trail which they could not identify and it did not lead to where they needed to go which only worsened their situation.

Through route finding efforts and cross-country travel, the ranger successfully lead the hikers to their destination arriving at 11:00 p.m. By this time, one hiker was suffering from altitude sickness and another was asthmatic. None of the hikers were enjoying their experience.

Although the cross-country travel occurred after darkness, only two of the hikers had headlamps and the ranger had to loan out his spares.

It was fortuitous that a ranger in a vast backcountry happened across three lost parties. He was not looking for anyone specifically nor were there any reports of missing hikers as cell service is unusual in this area. Otherwise, searches would not have started at least until the following day and this would have required numerous resources, at least one miserable night outside, and an outcome that could not be guaranteed.

Lessons Learned:

– Traveling over snow covered trails requires route finding skills. This includes carrying a detailed topographical map, compass (GPS optional), and, of course, mastery of these items.

– Always, and we cannot stress this enough, have the ability to retreat or return to where you have come from by the same route. This requires you to remain aware of what’s behind you while hiking to your destination.

– Hike prepared with the 10 essentials. Few hikers intend to hike in the darkness but a headlamp, preferably two, and spare batteries, can be a game changer.

– Hikers sometimes place rock cairns for their own reference. These are not official Park Service markers and they may or may not be accurate. Bottom line, follow someone else’s markers at your own risk.

– When in doubt, hike on well-defined trails until the high-country trails are snow free.

Please help circulate the word to anyone who is thinking of hiking in the Tioga and Tuolumne areas.


High Fire Danger everywhere!!  Please be cafeful!  If you see or smell smoke, check the internet to see where the fire is - don’t go there!!

Smoke from Northern CA is drifting over Yosemite and as far south as Kings Canyon and Owens Valley.  Smoke from Lion fire drifts over Owens Valley and Indian Wells Valley.